Ze'ev Jabotinsky, MBE (born Vladimir Yevgenyevich Zhabotinsky; 5 October 1880, Odessa – 3 August 1940, Hunter, New York), was a Russian Jewish Revisionist Zionist leader, author, poet, orator, soldier and founder of the Jewish Self-Defense Organization in Odessa. With Joseph Trumpeldor, he co-founded the Jewish Legion of the British army in World War I. Later he established several Jewish organizations in Palestine, including Beitar, HaTzohar and the Irgun.
His influence on Israeli politics is profound: through his closest protégé Menachem Begin's administration (1977–1983), consolidating the domination of Israeli politics by the right-wing Likud party; and through the administrations (1996–1999, 2009–) of Likud's leader (1993–1999, 2005–) Benjamin Netanyahu, the son of his former personal secretary and historian, Benzion Netanyahu.
During World War I, he had the idea of establishing a Jewish Legion to fight alongside the British against the Ottomans who then controlled Palestine. In 1915, together with Joseph Trumpeldor, a one-armed veteran of the Russo-Japanese War, he created the Zion Mule Corps, which consisted of several hundred Jewish men, mainly Russians who had been exiled from Palestine by the Ottoman Empire and had settled in Egypt. The unit served with distinction in the Battle of Gallipoli. When the Zion Mule Corps was disbanded, Jabotinsky traveled to London, where he continued his efforts to establish Jewish units to fight in Palestine as part of the British Army. Although Jabotinsky did not serve with the Zion Mule Corps, Trumpeldor, Jabotinsky and 120 Zion Mule Corps members did serve in Platoon 16 of the 20th Battalion of the London Regiment. In 1917, the government agreed to establish three Jewish battalions, initiating the Jewish Legion.
As an honorary lieutenant in the 38th Royal Fusiliers, Jabotinsky saw action in Palestine in 1918. His battalion was one of the first to enter Transjordan.
He was demobilised in September 1919, soon after he complained to Field Marshal Allenby about the British Army's attitude towards Zionism and the Jewish Legion. His appeals to the British government failed to reverse the decision, but in December 1919 he was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for his service.
In 1920, Jabotinsky was elected to the first Assembly of Representatives in Palestine. The following year he was elected to the executive council of the Zionist Organization. He was also a founder of the newly registered Keren haYesod and served as its director of propaganda. Jabotinsky left the mainstream Zionist movement in 1923 due to differences of opinion between him and its chairman, Chaim Weizmann, establishing a new revisionist party called Alliance of Revisionists-Zionists and its youth movement, Betar (a Hebrew acronym for the "League of Joseph Trumpeldor").
His new party demanded that the mainstream Zionist movement recognize as its stated objective the establishment of a Jewish state on both banks of the Jordan River. His main goal was to establish a modern Jewish state with the help of the British Empire. His philosophy contrasted with that of the socialist oriented Labor Zionists, in that it focused its economic and social policy on the ideals of the Jewish middle class in Europe. His ideal for a Jewish state was a form of nation state based loosely on the British imperial model. His support base was mostly located in Poland, and his activities focused on attaining British support to help with the development of the Yishuv. Another area of major support for Jabotinsky was Latvia, where his speeches in Russian made an impression on the largely Russian-speaking Latvian Jewish community.
Jabotinsky was both a nationalist and a liberal democrat. Despite his attachment to nationalism, he did not embrace authoritarian notions of state authority and its imposition on individual liberty; he said that "Every man is a king." He championed the notion of a free press and believed the new Jewish state would protect the rights and interests of minorities. As an economic liberal, he supported a free market with minimal government intervention, but also believed that the "'elementary necessities' of the average person...: food, shelter, clothing, the opportunity to educate his children, and medical aid in case of illness" should be supplied by the state